Case Study: Flip negative review search results into a positive

The first digital touch-point a customer has with a business often takes place before they ever visit a company website. For many companies the first touch-point is the page 1 search engine result page displayed after a prospective visitor runs a branded search. If left unchecked a brand can have a page 1 branded search result that does not position it in a positive way. Many times negative reviews will be presented right next to the company’s homepage result.

Often when a transaction is completed successfully there is little incentive for a customer to leave a positive review. On the other hand if a transaction had an issue often people will actively search for a platform to leave a negative review. In my view this skews a brands real rating towards the negative.

To combat this I recommend brands run a testimonial/review strategy. You may already have a review strategy for products however this post is not about product reviews, it is about making improvements to a company’s perception using page 1 SERPs.

The situation.

After starting in my current role the company had a situation where many people had left negative forum posts and reviews pointing to company promotions as ‘scammy’. This was far from the truth as every promotion was checked for legality and lodged with respective state gaming authorities. Many of the people leaving negative reviews weren’t reading the whole promotion before jumping to conclusions.

Due to this our Google result page for branded searches was a mess and did nothing to build the brand, in fact it was doing the opposite.

Now you can’t actually these change results yourself. Search engines like Google use sophisticated algorithms and there is no cheating the system. So don’t even try.

What you can do is identify where opportunities to improve might exist and flip them from hurting your brand to building it. In our case we had an Australian review website called as an above the fold result for branded searches (the third result). Second place was a forum with an equally negative brand building result. I wanted to tackle each result separately and decided an easy win would be flip the result. showed us as having a 2 our of 5 rating right on our branded page 1 results. Their result also used Rich Snippets so this rating really stood out. When we investigated the actual page on there were only 7 ratings in total. This was good as it meant that if we were able to start getting other customers to leave high rated reviews these should quickly boost our average to something more desirable.


Before I continue I want to stress how important it is to not create fake or use paid reviews. This is not part of a scalable strategy, is dishonest and frankly people will see through it. Further if you are ever caught your brand will lose all credibility. You may be unable to recover from this.


How do you generate positive reviews for your business?

Firstly if you just run a batch and blast EDM (or social post) to your list you will probably receive a mix of both positive and negative reviews. You don’t want to do that, and besides batch and blasting is a one off. I don’t like one offs.

Next up you might think to run a post sale EDM for anyone that makes a purchase from your store. This isn’t a bad idea as it is a permanent strategy however you still run the risk of attracting negative reviews.

Our solution involved a little bit of each of these with the additional of one critical step. A customer service survey. We made this survey the key component to our second post sale automated email.

While the purpose of most surveys is to gain insight into what your customers think of your business, for us the purpose became identifying the promoters of our business and presenting them with a call to action to leave a review. This way we reduce the risk that we show detractors how to leave a review.

The key is to use a survey platform that allows you to use logic based on customer input. For example if we ask a customer to rate us out of 10, with 10 being the highest, if they leave a 9 or 10 after they submit their survey they are shown a custom thank you page asking them to leave a review. If anyone rated us an 8 or below they are not presented with this page.

For us this was an easy win.

Further to this we also removed the ability to leave a review from our Facebook page. Natively having people leave reviews on Facebook can backfire and is difficult to control. Our fix was replace the native review feature with a new custom tab called ‘Leave a Review’. This new tab is an iframe displaying our survey.


For those that are interested we use Survey Monkey for this. We may be moving towards Salesforce Marketing Cloud and if this happens I will probably stop using Survey Monkey and integrate survey functionality into a custom page that plugs directly into SFMC. This way we can associate these out of 10 scores to their respective accounts and start building out a list of advocates (our army!). We might even think about removing the 0 and 1 results from our list, or at least segment them.

Results: In only one month we turned a low 2 rating into a higher 4 rating. When a branded search is now run the results will include this new rating, nice and visually via Rich Snippet in all it’s glory. While small to some, to me this is a big win as we will continue to not just build legitimate positive reviews but also continue to build a positive perception of our brand.

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